MISSOULA — Griz fans will lose their tax deduction for charitable contributions linked to the purchase of season tickets under the new federal tax law. But if they buy the tickets before Jan. 1, they still can qualify.
The Grizzly Scholarship Association (GSA) is offering season ticket holders the opportunity to prepay their "seating contributions" before 2017 ends.
Season tickets at Montana cost $235 per seat. The donation to the scholarship association, 80 percent of which is tax deductible, is added on top of that.
The four tiers of donations are:
- Gold — $420 per seat
- Silver — $260 per seat
- Copper — $120 per seat
- Maroon — $60 per seat
Under the new tax law, any contributions that are linked — directly or indirectly — to procuring season tickets no longer will be considered charitable donations in 2018.
Mike Combo, a CPA at Anderson ZurMuehlen in Missoula, said paying this year for next year's season tickets is a smart decision, if people can afford to do so.
"I would prepay it if you could," Combo said. "There are some deductions that go away. That is one of them."
Montana Athletic Director Kent Haslam said several people have taken advantage of the prepayment offer and he hasn't heard of anyone who isn't renewing because of the change in the charitable deduction.
"I hope people are buying seats for more than the tax deduction," Haslam said.
He said the costs of season tickets and the GSA donation will stay the same as in years past, regardless of the tax change.
Colleges and universities across the country use season ticket sales as a means of collecting donations for their programs. The potential impact at universities with athletic powerhouses could be significant and has generated protests from athletic directors across the country.
While the effect on the University of Montana won't be as great, "it does have an impact on us," Haslam said. "Certainly there's concern there."
Haslam said the "priority seat" program generates roughly $1.3 million toward Montana Athletics' operating budget of roughly $22 million. That's about 6 percent.
"We rely heavily on the generosity of donors," he said.
Season tickets for football and basketball are connected. If a season ticket holder has four gold seats in football, they can buy four gold seats in men's or Lady Griz basketball with no additional scholarship association fee.